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Seattle business owner may have to close Aurora shop due to upzoning changes

Russ Saunders of Handy Andy Rent-A-Tool is one of numerous business owners along Aurora Avenue who believe the city’s upzoning policies fail to understand the character of the neighborhood, and make it difficult for a business like his to exist. He may end up closing up shop as a result.

“They want to place a large amount of pedestrians walking up and down Aurora. The storefronts would be within 20 feet of the curb,” Saunders told The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “This would cause a lot of people crossing back and forth between Aurora, and Aurora is a major truck street according to the freight master plan.”

Saunders believes that city is ignoring its own environmental impact statement, but beyond that, he’s concerned that the Mandatory Housing Affordability bill will end up pushing out similar businesses crucial to the area.

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“They’re planning on placing like 5,000 apartments within 156 feet of Aurora, placing a large amount of people living right on Aurora, which creates a public health and safety issue, and pushing out needed businesses like mine out of Seattle.”

“With MHA alone, in the last three years we will have lost 26 percent of our general commercial zoning,” Saunders continued. “If you’re an auto-related business, it makes it really hard to find space, as more development pushes in to heavily commercial areas. An example is Lincoln Towing, which has a four-acre site up at 125th and Aurora, and that’s going to be turned into condos, and that business can’t find property in Seattle to service in Seattle, so they’re looking outside Seattle.”

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Saunders says he hasn’t be able to get a hold of councilmember Debora Juarez, and that the city council doesn’t appear to be interested in the needs of the area.

“There’s a lot of neglect in understanding what Aurora is and what it provides for our whole community. It’s a major highway supporting upwards of 40,000-plus vehicles per day.”

In addition, Saunders has found it difficult to move into a piece of property on Aurora due to zoning bureaucracy, costing him plenty of holdings costs. He’s starting to believe that trying to exist on Aurora as a business is becoming more trouble than it’s worth.

“I’m debating whether to sell the property and just close the business down. It’s hard to run a business when the city council and the policies on land zoning don’t agree with a business like mine,” he said.

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